Herman Van Rompuy, the former president of the European Council and no big supporter of the Scottish independence movement, has warned Westminster that a no-deal Brexit means that Scottish independence becomes more likely. This is a welcome indication of how the mood music from Brussels is going to be radically different during a second Scottish independence referendum compared to the first.
In the run up to the first Scottish independence referendum, Van Rompuy was one of those EU figures who, at the behest of David Cameron’s Conservatives and the EU-wide anti-independence machinations of the Spanish Partido Popular, lined up to makes statements designed to damage hopes of independence. As a member of the rightist Belgian CDV party, Van Rompuy’s party is a part of the European People’s Party in the EU parliament along with the Spanish Partido Popular, which had targetted other members of the European People’s Party in an attempt to encourage European politicians to make statements damaging to independence movements within EU states. The Spanish campaign was being led by the Partido Popular MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons.
Gonzalez Pons also had meetings with Ruth Davidson, at least twice according to reports in the Spanish press. He also claimed that he would be meeting with representatives of the Labour party in Scotland. Isn’t there a word having secret meetings with representatives of a foreign country in order to influence the outcome of a democratic vote in your own country by seeking their help against your opponents? Gosh. I can’t think what the word for that might be. I’m wracking my brains. Perhaps Robert Mueller might be able to help me.
Statements made by Van Rompuy and others might have been specifically referring to the Catalan situation but they were then spun by the Scottish media to assert that they were likewise applicable in all their details to the very different Scottish situation. Any nuance was lost in the general noise designed to create in the minds of voters in Scotland that the EU was implaccably and unmovably opposed to any notion of Scottish independence, and would go out of its way to discourage it. That’s what the Partido Popular and the British Conservatives were very keen to foster. And to be fair, at that time it’s true that there was considerable scepticism within parts of the EU about Scottish independence.
However that was then, and this is now. Last year that self same Esteban Gonzalez Pons said in the European Parliament that the Conservatives were taking Scotland out of the EU against its will. He then tweeted his personal belief that the EU should enter into talks with Scotland. Representatives of the Spanish government have since confirmed what this blog had been saying for years, that Spain would not veto a Scottish application for EU membership. And now we have Herman Van Rompuy telling the Conservatives that the actions of Theresa May’s government are only making Scottish independence more likely.
As Scotland heads towards a showdown on its constitutional future, following the betrayals of all the promises made back in 2014 to keep us a part of the UK, there will not be a series of prominent EU figures appearing in the British press to do the British government any favours. The EU is a members’ club. It looks after the interests of the states which make it up, but within a few months the UK will no longer be a member. The EU will no longer consider what the British government wants when it makes announcements. There will be no more favours, no more deals struck in secret behind closed doors to form a common front against independence movements. They will no longer stand in the way of Scottish independence.
On Monday in The National, the Scottish Government’s Brexit Secretary Mike Russell was quoted saying that previous scepticism about Scottish independence from EU leaders had now “gone away”, and that there was now a much stronger sympathy for Scottish independence throughout the EU. That is unquestionably true. Throughout Europe, people look with horror upon what is happening in the UK, and see Scotland as an oasis of sanity amidst a sea of Brexit madness. Scotland might not be able to save the rest of the UK from Brexit, but it can save itself. There’s considerable sympathy in the rest of the EU for any Scottish efforts to do so.
It scares many in Scotland that the only people who can save Scotland are the people of Scotland. It’s a sobering realisation that when you’re in need of a hero you have to become one, because the real hero is the one you find inside yourself. But all over this country hundreds and thousands of ordinary people have risen to the challenge with style and panache. In the end, saving yourself has to be your own choice, and all over Scotland people are standing up and saying yes. They’re going to save themselves, they’re going to save their families, they’re going to save their communities. They’re going to save Scotland from the pathology of passivity, the sickness of subordination, the disorder of dependence. Unlike the last time, this time the British media in Scotland is going to struggle to find EU voices warning Scotland to sit down, to be quiet, to trust in our Westminster bosses. The EU won’t save us, but this time round they will stand by our side as we save ourselves.
The second Scottish independence vote is going to be characterised by utter desperation and a lack of allies on the side of those who oppose independence. They won’t have the big guns from the EU coming to their aid. They won’t be able to trot out a series of bosses of global companies warning Scotland that cutting itself off from the UK and Europe will damage jobs and opportunities. They won’t be able to tell us that those seeking independence in order to retain our ties with the rest of the continent are the narrow minded xenophobes when they’re the ones defending a Brexit that’s driven by a fear of immigration. Above all, Brexit means that they won’t be able to tell us that we’re the narrow minded parochial nationalists.
The character of the second Scottish vote is going to be very different. It’s going to be dirty. It’s going to be ugly. It’s going to be unpleasant and personal. It always is when an old establishment realises that its claws no longer firmly grasp onto power. But that British nastiness, that bile, that viciousness, they only mean that we’re going to win. 2014 was then, this is now. This time it’s different.
There won’t be any updates to the blog for the rest of this week as I am off to Wales tomorrow to do a talk for Yes Cymru in Caernarfon on Wednesday. I expect to get home late on Thursday evening. If you’re going to the rally in Dunfermline on Saturday, I’ll be attending with the dug and will see you there!
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